E-Vermont’s mission is to help rural schools, businesses and municipalities make the most of the new digital tools at their disposal. Funded largely through a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the project is also supported by a coalition of local philanthropists, businesses and nonprofit organizations.
In May, 12 Vermont communities were selected from more than 40 that applied to receive technical and educational assistance in maximizing their broadband usage. Over the next few weeks, more towns across the state will line up to be considered for the next round of assistance.
They’ll be vying for 12 open spots that come with a variety of free services, including new computers for their elementary schools, training and consulting services for small businesses, web-design instruction for town governments and a host of other community-building tools.
Over the last few months, e-Vermont convened a series of meetings in each e-Vermont town to create a list of town-specific priorities.
Many of the goals spelled out in the town plans use 21st-century technologies, such as email, Facebook, Nixle and Front Porch Forum, to reinforce old-fashioned Vermont values: connecting young people with elders; helping Vermonters stay in touch with friends and family out of state; finding new ways to increase civic participation; and helping Vermonters identify neighbors who live alone, are disabled or need someone to check on them periodically.
Another common theme that emerged from all the town plans is a desire to use the Internet to create a stronger local identity. For example, the 3600 residents of Pownal actually live in three separate villages — Pownal, Pownal Center and North Pownal — that are several miles apart.
One of Pownal’s goals is to use… Front Porch Forum to boost community cohesion and spark livelier dialogue among its residents. The framers of Pownal’s plan say this could be an especially useful tool as plans move forward to convert the former Green Mountain Race Track in Pownal into a renewable energy park.